U.S. Mint Marks World War II with a Privy Mark on Quarters


- by Mike Fuljenz Mike Fuljenz, president of Universal Coin & Bullion in Beaumont, Texas, is a leading coin expert and market analyst whose insightful writing and consumer advocacy have earned major honors from the ANA, PNG, NLG, and the Press Club of South

The first 2020-W quarter dollars with an obverse privy mark will be the Weir Farm National Historic Site coins. According to Todd Martin, the U.S. Mint’s acting director for corporate communicat­ions, these coins will be released on April 6, 2020.

The privy mark shows V75 within a multi-sided cartouche. It is part of the Mint’s initiative to pay tribute to the 75th Anniversar­y of the end of World War II. All five of the West Point minted circulatin­g 2020 America the Beautiful quarter dollars will be released with an obverse privy mark. The U.S. Mint has also announced a gold coin and bronze and silver medals celebratin­g the anniversar­y will be offered for sale.

Last month, I met a hero from World War II, Gene Metcalfe, who was left for dead in the Battle of Market Garden in September 1944, enduring pain from his injuries and mistreatme­nt in a prisoner of war camp and returning to his surprised and thankful family after the war. He is now 97 and with full cognition. The story of his life is told in Marcus Nannini’s new book, Left for Dead at Nijmegen.

There were war-time heroes at home, too. My mother was one. As a schoolteac­her not yet married, she played a leading role in organizing “lard drives” in Rapides Parish County, Louisiana. Excess fat from cooking could be used as a key ingredient in explosives. Fats can be used to make glycerin, which can be turned into nitroglyce­rin, an explosive. So the War Production Board created what it called the American Fat Salvage Committee to encourage housewives to save fat and lard and donate it to the war effort. There was a great public relations effort to get housewives to save their bacon fat or fat from any cooked meat or lard and donate it to the government. Disney Studios used Minnie Mouse to encourage this effort. In one film, the announcer said,

“A skillet of bacon grease is a little munitions factory. Every year, two billion pounds of waste kitchen fats are thrown away – enough glycerin for 10 billion rapid-fire cannon shells. Making a roast? Don’t throw out those lovely puddles of grease drippings – save them for our boys on the front line.” Typical slogans in this grease-saving program included:

“One tablespoon of kitchen grease fires five bullets.”

“One pound of kitchen fats makes enough dynamite to blow up a bridge.”

Not every household got the message. So my mother led the other mothers of children in her school to save their cooking grease and donate it as a unit. In June 1943, mom received a letter from Basil B. Cobb, executive secretary for the War Production Board in Louisiana, commending her for her leadership in the collection of 8,450 pounds of grease by schoolchil­dren in their parish (county).

During World War II, almost every key commodity became scarce and had to be recycled or rationed. Rubber was particular­ly scarce. So you couldn’t buy regular tires, and most old tires were recycled for military use. If it were not for the rapid invention of synthetic rubber, our Jeeps, planes, and tanks could not have been mass-produced as they were. American patriotism and creativity made victory possible.

When it comes to coins, there was a military angle, too. The copper used for the Lincoln penny was too valuable to “waste” when it was needed for use in shell casings, anti-aircraft ammunition, and copper wire. So the Mint stopped making copper pennies in 1943. The U.S. Mint produced nearly 1.1 billion cents made of pale-gray zinc-coated steel in 1943, diverting 3,500 tons of copper to the war effort.

Likewise, nickel in the wartime “nickel” or 5-cent piece was too valuable. So the nickel coin became 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese – with no nickel. Oddly, silver is more precious than nickel, so these coins later became valuable for their “melt” content, but they looked terrible due to the corrosion caused by the manganese alloy. I used to buy these “dirty” nickels for face value at banks in the 1960s and sell them to dealers for eight cents for movie money.

In 1944, the Treasury abandoned its experiment with steel cents, since these cents were so ugly. From 1944 to 1946, it minted cents from the brass in salvaged old cartridge cases. The Mint resumed production of the pre-war copper penny in 1947, but World War II was a time that brought America together through conservati­on. This is yet another example of why collectors consider money history in your hands. Collect your history today.

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